The City of Bellevue and Jeremy Shere differ wildly on why the former permit worker was fired, and a federal jury might have to decide whether the city owes Shere money.
The city says Shere was fired because he made an inappropriate sexual comment to a preteen boy about a girl he liked and tried to pressure building inspectors to deny a building plan for personal reasons.
But Shere, in a federal lawsuit, alleges he was fired because he has Parkinson's disease and the city wouldn't make reasonable accommodation.
He is suing the city for unspecified damages under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The city says Shere's firing had nothing to do with his disability.
In an earlier lawsuit about unemployment benefits for Shere, the city detailed the reasons it says Shere was fired. The city alleged Shere asked two building inspectors to deny building plans because Shere didn't like the contractor involved.
In addition to alleging he made an inappropriate comment to the 11-year-old son of a co-worker, the city said the same boy asked whether Shere had ever hit mailboxes with a baseball bat. The city alleged Shere said he and his friends used to do so, and they made “Drano bombs” for the mailboxes.
“Such unprofessional and crude behavior presents the city in a negative light and jeopardizes the good reputation of the city,” Assistant City Attorney Aimee Bataillon wrote.
In his reply, Shere said he had complained about a co-worker — the 11-year-old's mother — and implied that his firing was retaliation.
He also brought up the case of former Police Chief John Stacey, who was accused of making an inappropriate comment to a girl. Stacey eventually retired with a full pension.
“(My) comments in no way affected the reputation or integrity of the city as no one but me and the person that the conversation took place with even knew about it, unlike Chief John Stacey who had his all over the news and worked out a deal with the city,” Shere wrote.
In the unemployment case, a Sarpy County District Court judge ruled that Shere was not entitled to unemployment benefits because he was fired for misconduct.
“This behavior cannot be tolerated at any level of government,” Judge Max Kelch wrote.
In the federal lawsuit, Shere doesn't address those allegations. But his lawyer, Jerry Katskee, said they arose after Shere asked the city about accommodations for his disability.
“He believes that those things were trumped up, that they were looking for reasons to get rid of him,” Katskee said.
Shere asked the city for a more flexible schedule. He also performed some tasks more slowly, Katskee said.
After he spoke with the city about his disease, Shere was accused of sexual harassment, according to court documents. He was put on leave while those allegations were investigated.
Investigators decided that the sexual harassment allegations were unfounded, but he ultimately was fired for the other problems, according to the city.
After that, he worked at a similar job in Council Bluffs. Now he has another job, but Katskee said it doesn't pay as much as his Bellevue job.
Shere is asking for back pay, damages and other money.
A trial is scheduled for next June. Katskee said he doesn't expect the city to settle.
“The city has taken the position that they are in no respects liable for acting inappropriately toward him, and that a lot of times just shuts off any ability to sit down and talk about a settlement,” he said.
Bataillon said the city has a good chance of getting the lawsuit thrown out before the case makes it to trial.